While everyone understands how critical water is to the state’s future, we must not overlook another key ingredient that is right under our feet: clean soil.
Without clean soil, farmers like me cannot grow healthy and abundant crops; without these crops, Californians lose easy access to locally-produced, low-cost fruits and vegetables. We also lose jobs and all the economic benefits that the revenue from those crops and jobs deliver…ranging from farming to transportation, processing, grocery and restaurants …. as well as the community tax base.
Chloropicrin is not sprayed or applied to crops; it is a clear liquid that is injected into the soil before crops are planted to rid the soil of pests and soil-borne diseases.
This week the state is convening a Soil Health Symposium at UC-Davis to address the critical need for clean soil. I applaud that effort. Yet at the same time the state is considering imposing drastic restrictions on farmers’ abilities to cleanse their soils with one of the most effective products used safely by California farmers for more than 50 years: chloropicrin. Some of the farming requirements that the state is considering would increase by ten-fold some of the restrictions enacted by the federal EPA just two years ago. California’s proposals, if adopted, could make California farming impractical and uncompetitive with farmers in other states and countries.
Why is the state pushing to virtually eliminate one of the state’s most effective soil cleansers through its additional restrictions? Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the federal EPA classify chloropicrin as a carcinogen. In fact, the federal EPA re-stated its position that there is “no concern for the carcinogenic potential of chloropicrin” at least five different times over the last seven years, under both President Bush and President Obama. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson even sent a scientific opinion directly to California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) disagreeing with the conclusions reached by CDPR and reiterating EPA’s “conclusion that there is no evidence of carcinogenic potential in chloropicrin.”
Chloropicrin is not sprayed or applied to crops; it is a clear liquid that is injected into the soil before crops are planted to rid the soil of pests and soil-borne diseases that harm both the quality and quantity of our fruits and vegetables. Without it, my crops usually fail. I have seen that first-hand on my own farms, where we have experimented with alternatives like anaerobic soil disinfestation which the state soil symposium this week will discuss. Several million dollars of research have been invested by farmers and others in research into soil cleanser alternatives; and many more millions are on the way. But until viable alternatives are found and proven successful and practical, the state needs to follow the federal EPA’s scientific evidence and conclusions. CDPR should re-authorize chloropicrin with the current federal guidelines which the federal EPA has unequivocally concluded are “protective of all individuals.”
Ed’s Note: Jesus Alvarado is a farmer from Salinas.